“True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; it is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; it cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, its essence must be embodied.” – Aadil Palkhivala, World-renown yoga expert.
Yoga is one type of exercise that instead of fading over time as “just a fad”, it continues to gain in popularity and grow, and for good reason; it works.
If you are new to the practice, you probably have a ton of questions, and we are here to answer them. The best way to understand yoga is to have insight on where it came from, how it can help you, and the types of practices you can choose from when starting your journey.
The Origins of Yoga
Before you begin your journey into yoga, it is very important you understand the origins behind the practice. So, where did it come from, what was it used for, and how has it changed?
Yoga is a mental, spiritual, and physical practice that can be dated back thousands of years; frequently associated with Hinduism and Buddhism beliefs, religion, and culture. It was used in India to connect spiritually in a more “one-on-one” fashion.
Did you know yoga isn’t technically what everyone believes? Actually, most people who practice yoga today are not practicing yoga as a whole, but instead just one piece of the puzzle. The most common part of yoga used in modern-day “yoga studios” is Asana.
Asana is the poses and movements you go through during a typical yoga session, however, there are seven other steps or “arms” (the eight arms of yoga) which include Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. (We will get to these in another article.)
Keeping it Simple
But, for now, let’s keep things simple. Yoga is the ancient practice of combining breathing, poses, and meditation to create the ultimate body, mind, and spirit, makeover.
What Do You Need?
You really don’t need much to start your yoga practice. A few items are really all you need beginners, then you can add more accessories as you go along.
If you have long hair, you may want to pull it up in a hair tie or headband to keep it out of the way.
How does yoga help the heart? Oh, let me count the ways. First, controlled deep breathing helps reduce stress, relaxing the entire body, and putting less stress on the heart.
Deep breathing is ideal for lowering blood pressure, quieting the nervous system, and (according to Harvard Health) increasing baroreceptor sensitivity, which alerts the body when there is an imbalance in blood pressure.
Improves Moods (Decreasing Anxiety, Stress, and Depression)
Those who practice yoga regularly will tell you it is the perfect way to relieve the stress that comes with busy lives. People who struggle with anxiety and depression will use yoga to clear their minds, relax their bodies, and search their souls for the answers they are yearning for.
Sometimes a little bit of exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and proper breathing is all you need to get yourself into a better headspace long-term.
Who Should Do Yoga?
Literally, anyone can practice one form of yoga or another. No matter your age, weight, lifestyle, etc. there is a form of yoga out there for you (maybe 2 or 3). It is up to you, your limitations, your goals, and possibly your physician, to decide which option is the best for your specific situation.
Types of Yoga to Choose From
Unsure as to which form of yoga you should start with? Here is a list of the most common forms of yoga out there today. You can practice these at home on your own, in a studio, or with a group via live online classes.
The most practice form of yoga, most commonly seen in traditional yoga classes, is Hatha yoga. Hatha is used to channel vital forces and energy, using asana or poses, and controlled breathing techniques.
Bikram is a form of “hot yoga” which is an exercise practiced in rooms set at 105 °F (41 °C). The temperature and humidity are set to replicate that of India; and there are a series of poses, usually 26, completed within a 90-min session.
Yin Yoga is a much slower-paced yoga, with asana poses held for longer periods of time than any other practice. This form of yoga originated in China and was developed to utilize meditation to connect with your inner self and help achieve enlightenment.
Just like it sounds, Restorative yoga is used to relieve tension and stress in the body. With restorative yoga, you will practice asana, but holding poses a little longer than Hatha and really stretching the muscles.
Vinyasa Yoga is more of a slow yogic dance. It is a practice where you swiftly flow from one pose to the next in a continuous motion, connecting the mind and body.
Kundalini yoga is a very spiritually fueled practice that involves, chanting, repetitive poses, singing, and exercise. This is done to activate the Kundalini energy from within your lower spine and is often done with healing crystals.
This is a very small list of practices within the realm of yoga but is a great place to start when you choose to dive in.
Great Poses to Start With
Not sure which style to start with. No worries, here are a few super easy poses to try, to stretch and move your body to a healthier you. While they may not be as advanced and intricate as some of the other poses, you will definitely still see (and feel) the benefits right away.
Once you get the hang of the easier poses, you can then make your way through to the more challenging ones, improving your strength, confidence, mental clarity, and overall well-being.
- Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Cat and Cow (Marjaiasana / Bitilasana)
- Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)
- Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
- Easy Pose (Sukasana)
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Tree Pose (Vriksasana)
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
- Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana)
There is no better way to combine your body, mind, soul, and spirit, than through the practice of yoga. As you start this new chapter in your life, remember to take the time to really experience it, accept it, and embrace every moment. Don’t just go through the movements, live them.